The Othering of non-western pedagogical practices

I taught a session that focussed upon an introduction to Critical Pedagogy. Stimulated I came back and had a read of Kincheloe among others. There is a lot in what he says – that speaks to our current tropes. I am located in Australia and often I hear mention of school education in Asia being spoken off in disparaging terms. Rote learning and memorising feature regularly as instances of poor pedagogic practice. Such comments demonstrate how ill informed the speaker is about the universe of pedagogic practices. I frequently am tempted to ask the speaker to recite some poetry to check if they have undertaken a memorising activity in their lives. Only tempted!

The other mistake you often hear in Australia is about the teacher being an authority figure in the asian classroom. Somehow this is bad. Respect and affection which could be common in these instances of manifest authority is an alien concept. For this post I will merely state that there are many tropes that are used as shorthand in the process of ‘othering’ the non western educational practices. For more I will defer to Kincheloe. Have a read below and follow the links if you want to educate yourself about Critical Pedagogy.

The very idea that other cultures have much to teach the West about a variety of topics, not the least of which is diverse and better ways to be human , is viewed as an attack on the West – a manifestation of irrationality.

Joe Kincheloe,

Unless there are materially useful knowledges to be gained that serve commercial, colonial, and  military  (geo-political )  interests  of  the  empire,  then research in non-Western  contexts  is viewed  by  many  Western  scientific  commu­nities as a waste of time. The way the West is now is still viewed in FIDUROD as the “natural” way a culture should be after it has evolved by effectively using the scientific method. The very idea that other cultures have much to teach the West about a variety of topics, not the least of which is diverse and better ways to be human , is viewed as an attack on the West – a manifestation of irrationality. Little could be more damaging to the growth and evolution of a culture than such beliefs. If we are at the zenith of evolution, then the need for creative thinking about the future is rather moot.

The notion  that our present ontological state is our permanent human condi­tion has induced many Western social, cultural, political, religious, philosophical, psychological, and educational thinkers to surrender to the status quo. This realization in light of the vicious political economic and military dimensions of neo-colonialism moves us back to another central theme of Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction: an evolving critical pedagogy and a critical complex epistemology assert that  both  the  physical  and  social  universes  are too multifaceted for us to arrogantly believe we have all the answers, that we have become all is humanly possible. Humans in every period of Western history after the  scientific revolution have believed that they know the universe in some type of final way. Those phenomena that significantly differ from the dominant power …

Source – Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy, Joe Kincheloe.

The text below explains FIDUROD.

Joe Kincheloe’s Critical Complex Epistemology/Pedagogy & Multidimensional Critical Complex Bricolage

(Source – http://www.joekincheloe.us/what_is_fidurod.html)

What is FIDUROD?

Joe explained what he meant by FIDUROD in his book, Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction, in a section he titled, “Playing with the Queen of Hearts: the Joker Ain’t the Only Fool in FIDUROD.” (See pages 21-24).

The title of the section held my fascination for the longest time. Somehow, I just knew that someone who had synthesized Hermes into his definition of bricolage also embedded multiple meanings in that title. I kept asking myself, “Who is the other fool?” Needless to say, given we are working with a multidimensional critical complex bricolage, there are multiple meanings. One day I had a sudden epiphany; I had solved the puzzle (along with several interpretations). But I don’t want to be a puzzle spoiler so I’ll refrain from giving the answers. And there are no doubt many more interpretations than what I’ve discovered. As I’ve said before, Joe was no amateur bricoleur. . . and some of the interpretations can be very funny.

Joe devised FIDUROD to escape all of the criticisms using the word “positivism” generates. And he has contextualized it to the point that it would be difficult to place his description of this deficient epistemology simply under the label positivism. He explains that the letters in FIDUROD form an acronym for the main attributes of the world view under which knowledge is produced today.

  • F=Formal
  • I=Intractable
  • D=Decontextualized
  • U=Universalistic
  • R=Reductionistic
  • OD=One-Dimensional

Thus, we have rigidly produced knowledge that is out of context from the variety of situations it’s a part of, “grounded on the assumption that the world is basically an inert, static entity,” focused only on the things that are easiest to measure and things that we can perceive with our five senses, based on the belief that there is one true reality and we can describe it, and based on the assumption that the knowledge created this way is universal and can apply everywhere or to everyone. We live in what I refer to as FIDUROD Land.

As I describe this today I can see the absurdity of it. More absurd is how it operates in my daily life. In order to get a full understanding of how this epistemology keeps you imprisoned, I recommend reading the entire book. Joe has contextualized how this epistemology works in every dimension of our lives. This awareness is helpful for discovering new routes through the jungle.

As a provocation I present the story of Ekalavya.

By Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

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